Considered a steelband warlord and a man with musical gifts, 79-year-old Milton "Wire" Austin received tributes from mourners on Wednesday.
The funeral for the founding member of the San Fernando-based NLCB Fonclaire Steel Orchestra took place at the St Paul’s Anglican Church at Harris Promenade in San Fernando.
City mayor Junia Regrello said Austin was an unrivalled leader among his peers Austin's determination and influence, he said, were able to usher in the transformational evolution of the instrument in San Fernando.
"What Milton Austin did for steelpan in San Fernando through his will, fortitude and leadership changed the shape of the intangible," Regrello said. "The pan industry is resplendent with a litany of individuals of incredible skill and artistry. Among his peers, he was a leader extraordinaire."
Regrello is also the CEO of CAL Skiffle Steel Orchestra.
He and Austin shared a few things in common, he said: both started playing pan at 15 and became steelband leaders in their 20s.
Regrello shared fond memories as far back as 1968 when Fonclaire’s supporters protested because the band failed to make the south Panorama finals.
Austin, who outlived his two adult sons, died on Sunday. He is survived by his wife Joan and other relatives.
Scores of government officials attended the modest funeral, including San Fernando West MP Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, Culture Minister Randall Mitchell and Minister of Rural Development and Local Government Kazim Hosein. Former minister of culture and gender affairs Joan Yuille-Williams also attended.
Al-Rawi told mourners that he had the pleasure of meeting "the energy of 'the Wire,' a man who championed the receipt from every source possible to support Fonclaire."
He said Fonclaire is a culmination of a community enterprise, the salvation for the not-so-very-young and the young. Fonclaire, Al-Rawi said, is the home where hands learn to play music in harmony. He thanked Austin, saying he contributed selflessly to the artform.
"To members of the Wire family, that energy will live forever, that name will be remembered," Al-Rawi said. "To the people of San Fernando, we lost a light."
Austin's niece Aretha Austin-John as well as Darren Sheppard, Fonclaire’s managing director, also paid tributes. Sheppard honoured Austin by playing a song on the pan.
Archdeacon Dr Steve West told the congregation that as long as God gives a gift, he will not withdraw it. Austin, West said, was able to identify his gift, which he used to serve TT and the world.
"He did his tasks well. He used his gifts for the benefit of others. He was able to motivate others," West said. "He was certainly a giant in his field. He was very positive in his outlook despite his health challenges."
God gives talents and gifts to people so they can contribute to God's world and God's people, West said.
Austin’s body, in a casket covered in photos, was taken to Belgroves crematorium for a private cremation at 5 pm.